Jaguar XF: Drive Review

24th May 2013

Michael Woodhouse gets aggressive in the Jaguar XF

Sometimes choices seem so obvious that you spend little time thinking about them, and even less about making a truly informed opinion. I have Tropicana juice, McVities biscuits and Walkers crisps just because I always do.

Buying a big luxury car, what do you go for? Simple, you walk in to either a BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi dealership and ask for a brochure and a test drive.

They're the known quantities; you've seen them on the motorway in your rearview mirror and every television and magazine advert bores shiny new metal into your visual cortex. But what about the plucky underdog, the Jaguar?

In the past Jaguar has, quite rightly, burdened by the lack of quality and reliability with which its cars left the production line. A friend owns a 'classic' Jaguar XJ, at the time the car of choice for Prime Ministers, but if you look at it now you can see how shoddily it was put together, how little time the company put into designing a vehicle worthy of the tag 'luxury'.

There was no room for rear seat passengers unless they had miniature legs, although the car was vastly long; the boot had the capacity of a chestnut, and as for the mechanics, you could fill pages of a magazine with how badly they had been knocked together.

But ignore the past – and look at what Jaguar is doing now. It's finally developed a car that might be able to compete with the saloons of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi: the Jaguar XF.

It isn't new, but last year it had a refresh that made the face look sharper and more aggressive and brought more economical engines to the line-up – including, God forbid, a four-cylinder diesel.

Revisions to the grille, bonnet and front wings give the car a more muscular appearance. The headlamps now use bi-function HID Xenon technology that makes them much slimmer, while the lighting technology of choice – LEDs – has been used for the daytime running lights. At the rear the full-LED tail lamps have been entirely renewed and now extend onto the central portion of the boot lid. The boot on all models now also features power closure.

And for those that like to tick the options lists three new paint colours and an expanded alloy wheel selection ranging from 17 to 20-inch let you put the final styling touches to your car. It now looks very pretty in the metal.

It's under the pretty façade that much of the work has been done. The Jaguar XF finally gets a four-cylinder engine, a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, one that the firm says gives the same level of refinement and performance as the previous 2.7-litre V6.
It's swift. I drove it in Munich as Jaguar cheekily launched the vehicle in the back garden of its German rivals. The 190BHP unit offers 450Nm of torque and can hit 60mph in 8.0 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 140mph. But in today's climate it does that while still managing to return 52.3mpg and emit 149g/km of CO2. It's helped greatly by a stop-start system that shuts the engine down when you aren't on the move.

I can't deny that it is strange driving a Jaguar that doesn't have a thumping vee-engine under the bonnet, but it did still prove fun.

Jaguar will cheerfully tell you that the engine is ‘perfectly complemented by the all-new 8-speed automatic gearbox’ and ‘offers a host of benefits including both improved acceleration and economy’ with gearchanges that are ‘completed in just 200 milliseconds – four times faster than the average human resting heartbeat’ (whatever that means). It's true to an extent.

Use the 8-speed solely as an automatic and let it do the thinking and it happily selects the right gear at the right time, but when you want to push the car a little harder and take control yourself it can be frustrating.

Whether you leave it to change gears itself or take control the improvements to the XF's efficiency are quite astonishing. With the eight-speed even the 3.0-litre V6 emits only 169g/km CO2 and improves fuel consumption to 44.8mpg.

I'm not a sycophant, though; there remain problems and idiosyncrasies that mean the XF could annoy you still.

The shiny gear selector bezel, while aesthetically pretty could blind you in bright sunshine as the rays catch it and bounce into your line of sight. The engines, while now more economical, still can't quite match the choices offered by the German manufacturers and although Jaguar has done a lot to improve reliability every year, in every survey, its vehicles – including the XF – can't match the Germans.

Even with Jaguar’s foibles, it's a sturdy car and well worth a look. Who knows, maybe I'll even change my brand of orange juice too.

Price: from £29,949
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 8 seconds
Fuel economy: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km

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